Currently on hiatus. Will resume in July, or sooner.

Current story updates:

Current story interludes/Side stories:
Every other Saturday

Other pieces:
Every other Saturday (Saturdays I don't run the Interludes/Side Stories)

During certain periods updates may come more often; at other times updates may come less often. This schedule is my hoped-for goal.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Sigilian 22

Hiros stood atop the balcony of the border tower and watched the ground sail by below.
The captain and the assassins had been giving him the creeps; he had needed to get out.
Needed some fresh air, needed to be away from the two calm deathbringers and the man who might as well have been dead.
The pilot was nothing but an empty shell. They had showed him a sheet of paper with squiggles and a seal on it and he had accepted it as a written missive. It was like the man was just a machine now. All you had to do was press the right buttons and he would do whatever you asked.
It was eerie, and completely wrong. Everything about it was wrong. The worst part about it was the thought that it could have, barring a change in circumstances, been him like that. They needed his Sketching ability, and he wasn’t sure how well that would work if he was some puppet like that but still…
It was a terrifying thought. And the assassins were almost as bad. He had tried to talk to them but they had refused to deviate from their orders of transporting him and fulfilling some mysterious mission.
Their devotion to it went beyond normal, or even that from a contract. He could tell from the set of their jaws and the changes in their stance whenever he brought it up.
They were almost zealots about this. And thinking back he realized that they had been the same with any orders from Natasi.
Were they just that passionate about the cause? Or did she have some other hold over them?
He was not sure what Sigils she had, not sure what she could do. Did there exist a Sigil of control, of compulsion of some kind more subtle than Shadow? Was he, even now, being controlled by her in some way?
Could he even trust these thoughts, or might they have been something else she planted?
Hiros was beginning to think that it might have been better to never join these people at all.
But then he would have been their enemy, and that would have been an even more terrifying situation to be in.
He paused in his reverie when the tower sped up as it cleared the last of the mountains.
“Are we going out to sea?”
He turned to go back down the stairs but ran into the taller of the assassins.
“You are correct. We are indeed going out to sea”
“Ah” Hiros took a step back and found himself up against the rail. Trying to look casual he lounged against it “Are we really?”
“Yes. We’re going to Faron Rek”
“F-Faron Rek?”
Despite being cold hearted, ruthless, and as treacherous as the best of them Hiros did not like the idea of Faron Rek.
Never alone, never allowed a chance to Sketch, to make a Link, never allowed the time to scheme, and if he tried to play both sides against the middle he’d end up dead three times over.
It was not a good place for him, for his skillset, or for his interests, namely staying alive and getting rich with little work.
“Why are we going there?”
He tried to regain his composure, but his voice still quavered a bit.
“There is to be a new Blood Red King”
“A new King? Isn’t that usually followed by wars and the like?”
“Not if the challenger defeats the three champions and then the old King in single combat. If he does then he becomes the new King, and the others can say nothing. All must swear fealty to the new Blood Red King. The new King can always be assassinated if the others think the ruling unfair, but it is unlikely to happen, at least not right away. And the new King doesn’t need to be King for all that long for our purposes”
He smiled grimly at Hiros as the tower sped up even more, the wind off the ocean now whipping Hiros’ shaggy mane about his head.
“And of course, the King had best look like a King as well. That is why you will need to get rid of your pipe, shave your head, get a tattoo, and some new attire”
“Ah, yes, but why will I-?”
Hiros fell silent as the words sunk in.
“The new King will need to look the part”
“And I need to look the part?”
The smile grew wider.
“And I’m to be the new King?”
The smile was so wide that his face should have split. A hand shot up faster than should have been possible and grabbed the longest bits of hair into a ponytail at the back. The man’s other hand brought the knife close to Hiros’ scalp as he began to shave the poor bandit.
“You’re just full of insights today Sketcher”

Laerian stood in the middle of the street. He was calm…He was calm.
He closed his eyes for a moment as he breathed in slowly, then out again.
His arms hung by his sides. He had his usual scarf on but his coat was in the room along with the hood and the gloves.
He didn’t need to carry them with him for the moment.
What he did need was some time to just relax, breathe in the life of the city, and forget that which he had done.
Not forget that he had done it, not forget that there was now another weight on his soul, but forget the particulars, the details, the feeling of the living cloth, the sound of the screams.
He needed to forget all that and just be himself, be the carefree and happy stage-magician, the performer, the lucky man who made his living doing what he wanted and not what anyone else did.
He needed to be the new Laerian, not the Laerian of the wars or the Laerian who had lived with his father.
He needed whimsy, life, happiness for a few breaths before he went back to war.
His partner’s voice drew him back to the street. His eyes snapped open to see Tomas standing a ways away, turned and fighting the flow to stay in place.
“Lets go”
He closed his eyes and breathed in for another moment.
The smell of salt was in the air, mixed with the stench of the city and the smell of fresh baked bread. Someone was going to have an enjoyable morning if they got to eat that.
Gulls cried overhead as they circled the towers and dove down by the docks looking to see if they could steal some of the catch. The smaller birds that were able to navigate through the scaffolding chirruped and argued to each other as they went about their work.The occasional shouts of a roof worker competed with the cries of hawkers and the general babble of the crowd.
He opened his eyes again and stared at Tomas. He didn’t want to move, didn’t want to go to Faron Rek yet. He wanted to have a moment to be at peace.
“Tomas. Can we stay for a day first?”
“Any delay gives them more time to plot, more time to ruin things”
“And a delay of a day will allow us to get more information, learn more about what we are getting ourselves into”
He stepped forwards to catch up with the younger lord and fell into step, his longer legs easily keeping the pace.
“No, we can’t delay”
“Tomas, do you even know who the current Blood Red King is? Do you know how to get to Faron Rek? Do you know what it is like right now? Do you know how many people will be there or what Hiros even looks like?”
“No, no, no, and no. They’re not important. We can take a boat closer and then find out there. Each of these things will be easier to find out when we are closer”
“And also more dangerous to ask about! If we get closer do you have any idea how cagey these people are? They will have people listening for those looking for information about the island, they will have people waiting to see if they can’t figure out who is trying to learn and why, and if we are seen to not know anything and be looking that will not lend credence to our story. No good bandit operates without knowing how things work, what they do, how they need to interact with the others, and especially no bandit just decides to go to Faron Rek to see if they can become all official without knowing anything about the island, especially because bandits can’t even become official by going to Faron Rek! You can’t officially get control of territory to rob, you can’t become an official bandit at all, there is no way you can except practice and the like. Thats all there is to it. So if-”
“How do you know so much about this Laerian? How do you know what bandits can and can’t do, will and won’t do?”
He fell silent at that, long enough that Tomas glanced at him, a question plain on his face.
“Ok, come with me”
He grabbed his partner by the shoulder and dragged him across the traffic until he shoved him down an alley ahead of him.
There was a warning in Tomas’ tone as his hand reached for his dagger.
“I’m trying to get out of public so I can tell you”
So much for being at peace and ignoring the sins of the past.
“I used to be a bandit”
Tomas’ reaction was, as expected, underwhelming.
“Go on”
“I…I fought as a mercenary on the mainland for a time. I was a soldier of fortune and I did things I am not proud of. The entire company did. Finally I had had enough, fearing that if I stayed there any longer I would become like my father.
“Two of my friends and I left together. We, all of us, hated what it was like there. We decided that we’d be better, that we’d be merry bandits.
“We returned here to our homeland and set out to make a band of thieves like the stories tell of, one that was jolly, stole from the rich to give to the poor, lazed around in taverns until they were needed for another good deed.
“But life was hard. We went through our savings very quickly and were forced to turn to actual banditry to just afford to eat. And there were never enough rich folk to steal from that we could afford to both feed ourselves and give to others. So we chose the first of course.
“From there it just got worse. We needed to be able to hit the bigger groups so that we could actually take the most lucrative targets. So, we brought in new people who didn’t share our values, and slowly but surely we began to share theirs.
“It was at that time that I came up with the Hangman. Thats the, the mask thing. The mask that I wore in the mine. Thats the Hangman. I realized that I could bring the clothes to life. At first my clothes refused, but then I learned that if I fed them blood they would be happy with me.
“So I fed them the blood of others. And they grew to know that whenever they were awoken they would be fed so much blood, gorged on it, that it was in their best interests to protect me, keeo me alive.
“But, thats not the story. I was a bandit. And it was going well until we ran afoul of another band of bandits. They were encroaching on our territory. And after a few skirmishes left both sides with reduced numbers, I had the bright idea to bring our dispute to the Blood Red King.
“So our group set off, leaving its territory behind for the time being. We figured that if we got the Blood Red King’s backing we could reclaim it anyways, and that if we didn’t it wouldn’t matter we’d have to find new land anyways.
“So, we got to the coast and started to ask about Faron Rek as we made our way along.
“Well, by the time we had found someone who was willing to take us there the agents had heard about us, knew who we were and decided to teach us a lesson for being so impudent, so ill-mannered as to think to disturb the King with such petty nonsense. Those enforcers had both an excellent vocabulary, and they knew how to use it to best insult.
“They came up from the hold when we were five minutes out. They had been in league with our ferryman. Everyone died but me, and that was only because I used the Hangman to jump into the water and swim to safety. The clothes kept me alive long enough, trapped enough air, that I could swim some distance away before resurfacing. They thought I’d drowned rather than face them.
“And the truth was, at that point I think I rather would have. What they did to my friends was…brutal. They were bad people, we all were, but they didn’t deserve that Tomas. Nobody did.
“Nobody does”
He pressed on his eyeballs with the palms of his hands trying to block out the images that flickered behind his eyes.
“That’s why Tomas. That’s why we can’t do it your way. I’m not just trying to get some time, although I also need time. I am trying to stop us from running headlong into something that we cannot survive”
Tomas looked at him in silence for a moment then shrugged.
“Well, that is a sad story. I’m glad that you know what to do in this situation or else we would have died”
His voice was devoid of sympathy as stepped around the distraught man and headed back for the street.
“I’ll go get our room back and start asking around. I shall see you there tonight. Take your time, but don’t spend too long in the State”
Laerian sunk down against the wall, his head in his hands.
“Too many sins. Too many sins on my soul. Gotta forget them, gotta forget the details. Gotta remember the good times, not the bad”
He began to sob quietly as the people went by at the alley’s edge.

Nobody spared him a glance.

No comments:

Post a Comment